Hi everyone, first time posting on this board. My 89 year old grandmother has alzheimer's (she takes memantine among her medications) and lives with my unmarried uncle, who just turned 60. I'm their only family member in town. My parents retired a year and a half ago and relocated to the other side of the country. My family has always been on the dysfunctional side...my grandmother with a morose personality and my uncle deeply antisocial. I visit them once a week and worry that it is becoming a madhouse over there.
About two years ago, my grandmother began regularly accusing people of stealing from her. On one occasion, my uncle seemed to have had a mental breakdown from the stress. I went to visit and found him lying on the floor in a fetal position. Apparently they had been arguing all day after she accused the helper of stealing her money. Then her questions started becoming more repetitive whenever I visited ("where do you live", "where are your parents?"). In the last 6 months, it has gotten worse still. She recognizes me but seems surprised and doubtful when informed that I'm her grandson. Worst of all, she now creates a huge fuss at meal times, refusing to eat more than a bite or two, even hitting my uncle when he insists that she eat. My uncle almost never leaves the house and seems on the verge of a mental breakdown at all times, hyperventilating and extremely tense.
My grandmother's decline is apparently caused by alzheimers, but the bigger worry now is that my uncle may also be losing his mind. He won't entertain the possibility of putting her in a home. In the last couple months, he has asked my father and aunt to stop calling their home, saying that it only confuses her more, and has essentially cut off all contact with them. He seems mad at them for moving away, even blaming them for her decline. My aunt came to visit last year and he banished her from his home after an argument (later allowed her to visit again, but she had to stay with me). He has become ultra-protective and difficult to deal with. My parents were planning to visit but decided against it, since he would likely not allow them to see her and might go over the edge.
I'm really worried about the situation over there, but is there anything I can do? I am actually thinking of relocating myself, but feeling very guilty about leaving.
I am glad that you wrote to this Board; that tells me you are really wanting to help your Grandma and Uncle, not to run away. Relocating yourself would be escapism, not help. I strongly suggest that you contact some agency in your city which deals with the problems of the aged, perhaps an Alzheimers Association, an Eldercare office etc. Your parents may have gone away because the situation is too tough for them. But since they are not doing it, it falls upon you.
Just as there is child abuse, there is also elder abuse, and neglect could be seen as abuse. Please get help for them. It doesn't mean you have to be the caregiver, but you have to get them to a place (nursing home?) where care is provided. You will feel really good about yourself if you find the right solution. If they have no assetts, Medicaid would pay for a NH. Someone has to help them do the paperwork.
Thanks for replying Martha. I wouldn't say that my parents have run away from the problem. They had been planning to retire to the west coast for many years . My aunt is also out there and they have tried to convince my uncle (he is retired) and my grandmother to move as well, but they wouldn't go for it. My dad has his own health problems, having had a quintuple bypass a couple years ago, and my mom just recovered from colon cancer. If anything, my uncle's antisocial behavior has turned them off visiting. He won't entertain the idea of a nursing home and if anyone disagrees with him about any aspect of my grandmother's care, he will just cut them off.
I can totally relate to what you are saying and therefore am very sorry for your situation. My uncle also looks after my 93 year old grandmother who suffers from dementia. We live across the ocean from them, but there are several other family members that live within 10 minutes of my grandmothers house.
My uncle is also unmarried, and always used to just spend one or two days at the pub with his friends. Since my grandmother has become ill, he doesnt even do that so he has completely lost his own life in the process of caring for her.
In our situation, the rest of the family are all married and are only willing to give what time they can to the situation. The sad part is that my grandmother always begged him when she was well never to put her in a home, and so I believe this is why he is adamant he will take his own last breath before allowing this to happen. Maybe its wrong, maybe its right - what's right for some is wrong for others so I think it's up to all us to make the right decision. He also could come across that his way of looking after her is the "only" way. But in our case....he gets maybe a 2 hour break from doing so every week. So in my opinion, if he has things that he asks of the rest of the family with regards to how they take care of her for their few and short visits, then he has every right to. He knows what makes her tick and sadly now he knows the routine with her illness - what sets her off, what triggers her hallucinations and agitation. The rest of them come when they want and leave when they want, but leave him to deal with it the rest of the week. So I guess I think that he's entitled to feel this way. If they leave him with 99% of the responsibility they should respect his way of caring for her. It's a very long story. One that didnt have to be so hard. It's really tough for one person to care for someone like this...even two or three. But if there's a whole entire family, it should at least not be so difficult. No one should be overburdened. That's just my opinion. My grandmother also lashes out and hits my uncle sometimes (god bless her, she doesnt know what shes doing) and also sometimes refuses to eat or take her medication. It's a long hard road, and I respect anyone's decision to put their loved one in a home because it's never an easy one and also I admire people who choose to care for them in their own home. Everyone's situation is their own.
Not sure what to do about your parents visiting. I know my uncle sometimes gets annoyed when people call and say "well, how is she today?" or "how'd she sleep last night?". Meanwhile, they've all had a good night sleep and he and my grandmother have been up and down all night with hallucinations and trips to the washroom. So maybe this could be why your uncle doesnt want visitors because it bothers him when people come and then (in his opinion) go on and enjoy their lives, leaving him and your grandmother to deal with things. This is the case with my family, just trying to give you some thoughts.
No matter what, your uncle needs help, as does mine. They are both as much patients as our grandmothers. Some days I think my uncle will go before my grandmother, he is in such ill health now because of all the stress.
I'm sorry I dont seem to be of much help but I just wanted you to know there is someone out there who understands. Tell your parents to visit and offer whatever kind of help they can - even if its just to stay for the day and let your uncle take a rest. Not sure if that would work as I dont know the situation completely.
Good luck, please keep posting and let us know how things go.
hi i feel relieved to finally find support im very new to the internet. Sadly i moved away from my grandparents 3yrs ago due to domestic violence in my life and needed to keep myself and my children safe. My grandad who is now 84 is now in a nursing home in the last stages of altzimers as my nan who is still totally in love with him just couldnt cope the stress effected her health it really was the last option. The change in my grandad seemed to happen fast forgetfulness, moodswings, swearing, paranoid, agression, wandering the list was endless my nan would phone me begging me to help so i would drop everthing and travel 6 hrs i still do, i adore them the most frustrating thing is my dad their only son is very selfish he is only interested in getting money from my nan he totally uses her and plays on her emotions. He shows his face constantly when im there and watches me make all arrangements and support for my grandparents and just moans about how bad his life is, he has no idea what a bad life is believe me. I feel so guilty that my grandads in a home and it totally kills me that i couldnt personally care for him but i remember when he had one of his episodes and attacked my nan i knew then that the gentleman he was,was gone for good that was not my grandad.
I am glad too that you found this site. Do NOT feel guilty! Often a home is the best solution for all concerned. It is far too much for your Grandmother to cope with, your Dad isn't really doing it, and you are yet another genration removed - and should be building your own life. You probably have done all you can do. Be there for your Nan and don't let anything get in the way of your good feelings towards her. You can say anything here, and many of us will understand, having been in the same position.